Drive a little robot around an actual cardboard Wolfenstein labyrinth and punch cardboard Nazis.
You can play Smartistein3D during the hours listed below, in your browser at this link. You can control the robot using either the buttons on the screen or arrow keys and space bar.
Tue Aug 25: 11:30 to 18:30 BST
Wed Aug 26: 9:30 to 18:30 BST
Wed Sep 2: 9:30 to 18:30 BST
Thur Sep 3: 9:30 to 18:30 BST
Play a first person game with a robot
We've created a new expansion for Smaribot that allows you to build a telepresence robot that works with your phone. It's called Smartipresence and to make it all work slickly we've built a telepresence system.
Driving the robot around from somewhere else feels a bit like playing a first person game and made me wonder what it would be like to build an actual game around it.
It felt appropriate to go back to the origin of the first person shooter genre and do Wolfenstein 3D. I think many of us miss the chunky pixels and moral clarity that Nazis are bad.
Cardboard computer game
Because Wolfenstein 3D had 2D sprites (enemy characters) in a 3D world I thought it would probably transfer to cardboard quite nicely. I wanted to build it all on a table which limited space a bit, meaning I wasn't going to build a robot that could shoot (probably a good decision anyway) so I settled on a compact cardboard labyrinth and a robot that could punch.
I used to live around the corner from the Cable Street mural, which is a great argument for punching Nazis, so this seemed good. I designed a compact 3D printed Smartibot chassis that could hold a smartphone and a 9g servo to operate the punch mechanism, to which I attached a nice pixelated fist. (files on Thingiverse).
A game engine on your table
I got a friend who's worked for many years creating computer games to test this out and she said "you've made a game engine", which wasn't really something I'd considered before but it makes sense.
Game engines (software frameworks that handle things like in-game physics and graphics) have allowed games producers to focus on the creative aspects of game making and opened up the field to many less technical people.
Using a small telepresence robot (like Smartipresence) in this way makes game creation even easier, all you need is a table (or bit of floor) to build your environment on, some things for the player to interact with and a clear idea of how the game mechanics should work. The physical world provides your physics and graphics engine and your hands handle the game mechanics.
I think this could be a really fun way for kids to interact with their loved ones remotely.
The robot I built to play Smartistein3D uses only three motors (the two that come in the Smartibot kit to drive the wheels and move it around plus the little servo for the punch) but because Smartibot is so flexible (and can control up to 14 motors) you could build more complicated robots for more complicated game mechanics (you could use almost any of the robots in the projects section as the character). Plus, if you've got strong enough internet, there's no reason not to have multiple players controlling multiple robots. ALSO, you could probably use Smartibot's A.I. mode to create enemies that move around and respond to the player characters automatically ... I doubt this will the last game I'll make with Smartipresence.